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Injured Arapahoe County deputy says she's being forced to resign

Posted at 7:40 PM, May 16, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-17 00:42:02-04

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ARAPAHOE COUNTY, Colo. — She's a 12-year veteran of the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office, severely injured in the line of duty. And now, she says the county is trying to force her to resign.

Suzette Bennett said she considers it an honor to help people in her community. It's what she always wanted to do. Being a law enforcement officer is in her blood — her father is a retired Denver police officer, she said.

In 2008, she joined the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office. Two years later, she was seriously injured trying to restrain a man during a domestic violence call.

"I could have lost my life that day — I protected me. I protected my partner. I protected the public," she said.

She said she "ripped everything" in her shoulder that day.

"After three surgeries, (the sheriff's office) told me there was no way I could be a deputy because there was no way I could pass the physical," she said.

The incident itself left her in pain. But she also battles depression, PTSD and reccuring nightmares. But she still wanted to serve, so she took up a desk job with the sheriff's office.

But last year, the Arapahoe County attorney told her they wanted her to take a buy out and leave her job, she said.

"I'm not even a deputy any more," she said. "I'm a civilian, in a civilian position. I took a big pay cut, and (they) are now asking me to do this. I don't understand it."

Her attorney, Richard Gross, said the buyout is all about saving the county money. He said it would have cost Bennett hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost wages and pension, not to mention thousands of dollars each month for insurance payments.

"It's a shame that first responders who risked their lives on a daily basis are treated this way," Bennett said. "It's wrong. It's a shame."

The county told Denver7 they have a robust policy to accommodate people injured on the job, and they follow the statute of the Colorado Division of Workers Compensation. They also said "it would be inappropriate to comment further given pending litigation associated with Ms. Bennett's worker compensation process."

Bennett said she wants to tell her story so others won't pay the price.

"It's not just about me," she said. "It's about my brothers and sisters in blue too."

Bennett said she will not take the county's latest offer. She has another hearing set for July 31 before a workers compensation judge.